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21st May 2022

MEPs tell Slovenian PM to appoint his EU prosecutors

  • Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša outlining his country's priorities for the EU council presidency in the European Parliament on Tuesday (Photo: European Parliament)

The Strasbourg-part of the launch of Slovenia's six-month EU council presidency continued just as awkwardly on Tuesday (6 July) as it kicked off last week in Ljubljana.

Several MEPs called on Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša to appoint his two-allocated prosecutors to the EU's public prosecutors office (EPPO) - something he has been holding up for months.

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Previously, EU chief prosecutor Laura Kövesi described Slovenia's approach as lacking "sincere cooperation"- a prerequisite of the EU's functionality -, and undermining the new office.

On Tuesday, Janša said he would appoint the prosecutors by the autumn, and blamed procedural delays.

However, it was Janša himself who annulled the process back in May, despite the selection procedure of the two Slovenian delegates having been completed last December.

On Tuesday, Janša pointed at other member states that had not joined the EU's public prosecutor's office, such as Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Ireland and Hungary, suggesting criticism should be directed at them.

"This doesn't mean Slovenia is withdrawing, we want all the member states to participate in the EPPO," the Slovenian PM said at a press conference in Strasbourg.

The EPPO has 22 European prosecutors, and 140 delegated prosecutors residing in the participating member states that are tasked with protecting the EU's financial interests by fighting cross-border VAT fraud, money laundering, and corruption.

During the debate, German MEP Manfred Weber, who heads the centre-right parliamentary group to which Janša's Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) belongs, said he should "immediately" nominate the prosecutors.

"You should leave here having committed to nominate a representative to the EPPO. Don't wait until tomorrow to nominate someone, do it today," the Socialist group leader, Spanish MEP Iratxe Garcia said.

"That would reassure Slovenians, and [those MEPs] in this hemicycle," she added, referring to the parliamentary chamber.

Liberal Renew Europe's Dutch MEP Malik Azmani criticised the EU Commission, saying it should not have approved Slovenia's national Covid-19 recovery plan without Janša appointing the prosecutors.

If its plan gets the approval of fellow member states, Slovenia will receive the green light to access EU funds under the Covid-19 recovery plan.

But Azmani added that the "track record" of Janša means his words cannot be taken for granted.

"Unfortunately, Janez Janša seems to want to be part of a very sinister club that doesn't appreciate free media, that cannot stomach the judiciary's independence or respecting LGBTQ rights at all," he said, referring to the Slovenian PM's recent support for Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán's anti-LGBTIQ legislation.

Janša has been criticised for attacking the media at home, as well as making personal verbal attacks on judges and MEPs.

Last week in Ljubljana, EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans refused to join a group photograph with Janša's over the PM's "unacceptable attack" on two Slovenian judges and two socialist MEPs.

"Talking down on judges and MEPs, colleagues in this house, I wish more commissioners would have joined Timmermans," Azmani said.

At Tuesday's press conference Janša dismissed increasing criticism over judicial independence and media freedom.

Shutting down questions on the prosecutors, Janša pointed to political prisoners in Belarus and said: "There are many other problems which are immeasurably more relevant than the one we are now wasting time on."

Slovenia to push for Western Balkans enlargement

Slovenia will give special attention to the discussion on the Western Balkan integration into the EU during the six months that it will hold the presidency of the EU Council, its prime minister Janez Janša said.

Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office

Slovenia was supposed to nominate a delegated prosecutor for the new European Public Prosecutor Office, in charge of cracking down on corruption of EU funds. Ljubljana finalised procedures in December but has yet to send nominations, causing headaches.

EU institutions brace for impact of Slovenia's Janša

The Slovenian prime minister recently lashed out against both journalists and MEPs. His country will soon take over the presidency. In Brussels, there is concern - but also faith that Janez Janša cannot have much impact on the EU machinery.

'There are no clean countries', EU chief prosecutor says

"For the first time, the offenses against the financial interest of the EU will be investigated in an integrated strategic manner by a prosecutorial body with supranational jurisdiction," EU chief prosecutor Laura Kövesi said.

Opinion

How Slovenia is undermining EU's environmental ambitions

Thee international community needs to act to prevent the environmental destruction being orchestrated by Slovenia's populist prime minister, Janez Janša - especially now his country has the EU's rotating presidency.

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